Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Hello Beautiful

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano
3/14/23; 416 pages
Random House

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano is a very highly recommended, poignant and complex family saga. One of the best novels and character studies I've read this year. Absolutely excellent!

William Waters grew up feeling completely isolated and unloved by his parents. One world he was accepted in was playing basketball and so he embraced that identity. When Julia Padavano, an assertive young woman who knows what she wants, meets him during their freshman year of college, she decides William will be her boyfriend. She introduces him to her three sisters: Sylvie, Cecelia, and Emeline and then has him come to their home for dinner. William is overwhelmed and immediately accepted by the loving but boisterous family and he is grateful Julia cares and is in charge.

The two marry, according to Julia's plans, and she presses on with her agenda for their future. When events occur in the family that she can't control, it unsettles the foundation of her plans. The sisters continue to hold their strong bond to each other, but when a crippling darkness and depression take William over, Julia and William divorce, and William gives up all rights to their infant daughter, Alice. Sylvie, however, understands Williams struggles and she stays by his side, along with support from Cecelia and Emeline. Julia takes Alice and starts a new life in New York City, apart from his sisters.

The narrative alternates between the voices of William, Julia, Sylvie, and late in the book, Alice. At the beginning of each chapter are the years covered in the narration. The events corresponds realistically to the time periods covered. William is the first narrator and the chapter covers 1960-1978, starting with his birth. This continues until the last chapter set in 2008.  Written into the narrative is a homage to Louisa May Alcott’s, Little Women, with the four sisters each taking on a different role.

Hello Beautiful is an exquisitely written, complicated, and perceptive family drama that asks if love make a broken person whole? Beyond that it is so much more. It is an exceptional character study. With great compassion and care, the narrative is an examination of how people can support each other during times of struggle and build a meaningful life. It is a celebration of family and friendship during the difficult times.

Honestly, these are some of the most finely written and well-developed characters I've encountered in a long time. All of the characters in Hello Beautiful are fully realized, and portrayed as authentic, unique individuals with flaws and strengths. They all experience change and growth. There is great insight into their inner lives and relationships with each other. Certainly Hello Beautiful will be on my list of best novels of 2023.

Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Random House via NetGalley.

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